STEELBAND arranger Lennox “Bobby” Mohammed, the first man of East Indian descent to win the coveted national Panorama title, has died at the age of 78.
Mohammed, who was suffering from kidney failure, died at 2 am on Tuesdayat the San Fernando General Hospital . Only days before Pan Trinbago made an appeal for blood on his behalf
He was the first and only one of two men to bring the coveted national Panorama title to San Fernando in 1965 and 1967 with the unknown Guinness Cavaliers Steel Orchestra.The late Steve Achaibar, the last arranger to bring Panorama glory to San Fernando through Hatters Steel Orchestra in 1975, was a student of Mohammed.
In its Facebook page, Pan Trinbago recalled Mohammed, who was introduced to pan at age 15, described himself as an innovator and trendsetter in that he was the first person of East Indian descent to succeed at the highest level as an arranger.
It recalled him as saying that in the early days steelbands were dominated mainly by Afro-Trinidadians from Port of Spain, so it was a surprise and shock when his relatively unknown south band won Panorama titles.
News of his death was met with glowing tributes from the public and steelband community as they recalled his outstanding contribution to the culture of Trinidad and Tobago.
Among them was Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts Randall Mitchell, who described him as “king among steelband arrangers.”
Mitchell sent condolences to the family and friends of Mohammed, who was also a former leader and arranger for the now-defunct Cavaliers and Trinidad All Steel Percussion Orchestra (TASPO).
“He was 22 years old when he won a Panorama title which made him the youngest arranger to gain that accolade. He also led the South-based Guinness Cavaliers to two Panorama.“Even though Bobby could be described as a king among steelband arrangers, it was commonplace to see him associating with citizens from every background in San Fernando and throughout the country.
“We shared the same alma mater, Presentation College, and he was a true 'Pres man' in leadership and in ensuring his contribution to society was valuable.
“His decades of work will remain with us and I am sure the many young and upcoming arrangers would have benefitted tremendously from his training, as he was always willing to assist them.”Mitchell thanked Mohammed for his contribution and for the sweet music he arranged and played.
San Fernando mayor Junia Regrello, himself a steelband leader, expressed profound sadness on Mohammed's passing.
“I don’t know how to find words to describe the loss of Bobby and the contribution he made to San Fernando as a steelband leader.
“One could recall when Bobby went to Port of Spain and introduced fear to his PoS counterparts with his rumbling bass, punctuating crescendos and sustained iron section that was a unique style.”
He said Mohammed’s contribution would be forever etched in TT’s archives as a master, game changer and trailblazer, as a force who brought recognition to San Fernando.
“When you consider Panorama started in 1963 and by 1965 to 1969 South was able to make its way, through Bobby Mohammed and the Cavaliers Steel Orchestra to two Panorama titles, a second in 1966, People’s Choice and second in 1969 – a feat we are yet to replicate.”
Regrello said Mohammed was not only a consistent force in Panorama, but in steelband festivals, heading one of the first bands to introduce choirs and do concerts with Ann Marie Baksh and the St Joseph’s Convent choir.
Mohammed was also an accomplished keyboard and piano player.
Regrello said he was happy that the city corporation had named a street on Harris Promenade in recognition of Mohammed three years ago.
His funeral will be streamed live from Guide’s Funeral Home either on Thursday or Friday and Regrello said he is liaising with Mohammed’s family to see what contribution the city can make in recognition of this great icon.
Pan Trinbago president Beverly Ramsey-Moore told Newsday the fraternity was extremely saddened by Mohammed's death.
“It is tremendous loss to the steelband community because he was a walking library, a walking encyclopedia and so we would definitely miss him.”
She said his contribution to culture, especially the pan, has been acknowledged over the years but she would ensure young musicians and the community remember him in a way befitting a legend.